Massey Award winner Julie Cannefax takes care of business and nurtures students for the curriculum in toxicology and environmental medicine.
Julie Cannefax is what HR folks like to call a self-starter. At 14, she worked part-time in Chapel Hill’s Belk department store. In high school, she drove a school bus. Long before she was earning a paycheck, her grandfather recruited her help in his one-acre garden in rural Chatham County, North Carolina, just south of Orange County. By 11 she was turning the soil with a tractor. “That instilled in me a good work ethic,” said Cannefax. “I hated doing it then, but I wish I could go back now and work in that garden with him.”
Cannefax has come a long way since then, from helping grow, harvest and preserve vegetables for her family to serving as a pillar of the curriculum in toxicology and environmental medicine, or CiTEM, in the UNC School of Medicine. Cannefax began working at UNC-Chapel Hill in 1985. Since 2007, she has been the CiTEM’s business services coordinator and graduate student services manager.
Cannefax is the only administrative staff member for the CiTEM, a cross-disciplinary program that trains students and postdoctoral fellows to understand the links between the environment, human health and disease. It’s the kind of critical solo role that requires confidence and authority — the same stuff that once fueled an 11-year-old girl to operate a tractor and a high school student to command a bus full of students.
For her deliberate, calm and quiet leadership, the extraordinary skill she shares with her colleagues and for her deep and genuine concern for students and their well-being, Cannefax is one of six Carolina employees to win the 2020 C. Knox Massey Distinguished Service Awards.
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